"He was one of the sweetest -- and as long as I was around him -- the most mild-mannered guy I've ever known," said county Water Utilities Director Bill Clayton. "He's just absolutely one of the best employees I've had."
Lee, a father of three and a manager at Reed Creek Water Pollution Control Plant on Stevens Creek Road, was shot and killed at work Friday during an argument with Thomas Eugene Bradford, 42, of Hephzibah, according to police reports.
A contracted truck driver with Thomson-based Hudsons Grassing Co. Inc., Bradford was at the plant hauling off waste.
An argument between the two men ensued about Bradford having too much "product" on his truck, according to a Columbia County Sheriff's Office incident report.
Bradford, who hauled sludge from wastewater treatment plants to facilities in Jefferson and Lincoln counties, got upset and threatened to dump the waste on the ground.
A witness told authorities that it looked as though Bradford was going to run over Lee, who was standing in front of Bradford's truck.
Bradford got out of the truck and pointed a handgun at Lee, according to the report.
Lee tried to take the gun, and the two men struggled. Bradford then pushed Lee and shot him in the chest.
Bradford called 911 and told dispatchers he had left his .380-caliber pistol on the running board of his truck, according to police radio reports. His call was disconnected, but he called back and said he was on his knees in the back parking lot.
Bradford was arrested Friday and charged with murder. He was being held at the Columbia County Detention Center, and no bond had been set.
Lee, 38, of Grovetown, was taken to the Medical College of Georgia Hospital. An autopsy on Saturday found Lee died from a gunshot wound to the torso, said Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriet Garrison.
Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said Monday that Bradford doesn't have a prior criminal history.
Calls to Hudsons Grassing Co. went unanswered Monday afternoon.
Clayton said Hudsons Grassing had a 10-year contract with the Martinez wastewater treatment plant, and Bradford hauled waste from the plant for two to three years.
A memorial service for Lee will be held 11 a.m. today at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, 3321 Wheeler Road, Augusta. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Lee Family Memorial Education Fund at all Georgia Bank and Trust locations. The fund was set up by county officials last week.
Lee, known as a prankster to family and friends, liked making others laugh. He also loved to play golf and was an avid fan of the Georgia Bulldogs.
"He was just such a good man; a huge family guy," Clayton said. "He's got three precious children."
Lee started off as a meter reader in the county 14 years ago, Clayton said, before working his way up to become a plant supervisor.